> Instruments From The Russell Collection [PLS]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Instruments From The Russell Collection.
ANON 16th CENT SCOTTISH: Galliarda la Reyne d’Ecosse; Queen of Scots Galliard.
MERULA: Capriccio Cromatica.
BYRD: Pavana and Galliarda, The Earl of Salisbury.
SWEELINCK: Ballo del Granduca.
SCARLATTI: Sonatas in F Minor and G Major.
GREENE: Suite in F
J S BACH: Prelude and Fugue in E Flat.
STANLEY: Voluntary in G Opus 7/9
HANDEL: Fugue in A Minor; Overture; Rodelinda.
FORQUERAY: La Régente, La Du Vaucel, La Moranges ou La Plessay (from Troisième Suite in D)
CLEMENT: Sonatina in D, Op 36/6
John Kitchen (keyboards)

The Russell Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments, housed in St Cecilia's Hall, Niddry Street, Cowgate, Edinburgh, comprises over 50 pieces, ranging from the late 16th to the early 19th Centuries – harpsichords, spinets, virginals, clavichords, early piano. Many of these were gathered together by Raymond Russell (1922-64) and then presented to Edinburgh University which has added to the Collection substantially since then. It is good to have a representative collection of its instruments on CD in music contemporary with, or otherwise suitable for, each of them and admirably played by John Kitchen of Edinburgh University.

More than that, the CD, arranged roughly chronologically, makes a satisfyingly varied programme. We begin with the Collection’s oldest playable instrument, an Italian virginal, heard in two anonymous Scottish galliards (the only Scots music on the disc) and a strikingly chromatic Capriccio by Merula (d.1665). A single manual Italian harpsichord of 1620 shows its paces in Byrd’s celebrated Pavan and Galliard and The Earl of Salisbury and in some virtuoso variations, probably by Sweelinck. Scarlatti can hardly by left out of such a production and two contrasting sonatas sound well on a Hitchcock spinet of 1728. Another London instrument, a Kirckman double manual harpsichord of 1755 is the vehicle for a brief, charming and direct three movement Suite by Maurice Greene, sounding very much like Handel, although the two men seemingly did not get on. Some actual Handel, a strikingly chromatic Fugue (along with a popular Stanley voluntary), comes on a Parker chamber organ of 1765 and an arrangement of the Rodelinda Overture (the arrangement is not by Handel himself, although he did make others) on a Broadwood harpsichord of 1793.

A Taskin harpsichord, built is Paris in 1769, received more exposure than any of the other nine instruments featured, and its music is perhaps as revealing as any. Armand-Louis Couperin (1727-89) was one of the later members of the Couperin dynasty that did so much for French keyboard (and other) music for perhaps a century and a half. The three quite extended Forqueray pieces are astonishingly idiomatic and memorable despite being arrangements from originals for bass viol and continuo. One clavichord from the Collection, a German instrument of 1763, is heard, very appropriately, in one of J S Bach’s "48", the E flat from Book II. And so finally to an early piano built by Thomas Loud of London in about 1810 and one of Clementi’s Sonatinas dating from 1797, in just two movements, an Allegro and a Rondo: a teaching piece, no doubt, like most of his sonatinas, but one, I would think, for a pretty advanced pupil.

I have had much enjoyment from this disc and happily recommend it, not only to lovers of old keyboard instruments, but also on account of the music, which includes a number of striking and unusual items. The booklet gives a history (and a photograph) of each instrument and notes on the music. The recording, admirably clear and with a natural sound, is excellently managed.

Philip L Scowcroft


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